UPDATE: DH have confirmed that a ‘progress report’ addressing the funding of social care will be published later in the spring, to go alongside the Social Care White Paper.
They say that the two documents will “probably” be published at the same time.
These will be followed by the Draft Care and Support Bill once the responses have been collected.
There were 19 bills in this Queen’s speech, including ones carried over and draft Bills – compare that with the 44 in the Speech from Tony Blair’s 2005 Government. The coalition’s first Queen’s Speech was heavy with complex Bills – this one is predictably lighter (though its main constitutional Bill on the House of Lords could prove pretty controversial if it isn’t sidelined by Ministers).
No surprises for local government either – this was never going to be a landmark Speech and there must be some relief given what else councils are currently dealing with. Nothing from DCLG, but there was never going to be much after the complex Localism Act. The LGiU shares the relief of not having a huge new Bill, but regrets some lost opportunities: We published our alternative Queen’s Speech before the real one: Andy Sawford has commented that we wanted to see legislation on Community Budgets and on the Repeal of Statutory Duties, but neither of these were included today.
To be positive, the Children and Families bill will be widely welcomed. The non appearance of the hi speed rail bill will be a frustration to some but an opportunity for its critics to strengthen opposition to it over the coming year.
But the most serious issue for local government (and for millions of people) must be the future of adult social care. There has been growing speculation and disappointment over the last week or so about the delay to reform of adult social care. There is to be a draft Bill and the expected but late White Paper later this month or June. The draft bill will not cover funding. It will cover the reform of social care law, following the Law Commission’s report.
So is this good news or not for everyone who is demanding reform? It certainly looks like there will be much needed legislation before the next general election on simplifying the system and developing ‘a modern, coherent and consistent approach to adult social care legislation’ – though even this can’t be a hundred per cent guaranteed – the white paper needs to be substantial and provide a clear timetable for change.
But delaying funding reform is ominous – the system now is in need of urgent reform. And dealing with social care reform piecemeal is problematic – how will the Law Commission proposals fit with a potential funding settlement; how does a new system work with welfare changes; what about the implications of the Health and Social Care Act? The Health Select Committee wanted to see more radical reform than Dilnot envisages (or was asked to consider) with prevention and integration at its core.
The current Local Government APPG inquiry into social care reform which the LGiU is administering has already produced much convincing evidence from local government and the voluntary and private sectors about the urgency of the situation. The King’s Fund estimates that the the cost of the current system will rise from £6.7 billion to £12.1 billion in 2026. There will be a funding gap of at least £1.2 billion by 2014. And this is without implementing Dilnot. Putting off taking the hugely difficult, but immensely important, decisions, on how we can achieve a sustainable, coherent and fair system will be a disaster – for councils who will run out of ways of making the current system stack up, and, of course, for those who rely on support now and in the future.
Getting political consensus is clearly proving tough; ensuring adequate funding now, in the transition and beyond, is extremely hard, but letting the opportunity dissolve, yet again, for fundamental reform, is something we really cannot afford.